Lydia is seventeen weeks old today!
It was another pretty big week for us, and I had an aha moment that changed a lot of things at once, so I’ll start there with that. I figured out that, at least recently, I’d been over-soothing Lydia. As in, not just responding to her cries right away and trying to meet her needs, but doing everything I could to manage her state so that she didn’t cry, and then cutting her off mid-cry with motion or something else as soon as I could tell what was going on. This came from a good place, obviously. I still think it’s right to respond right right away, even if she’s just fussing, but I’ve realized that sometimes what she wants is actually to cry!
It was reading this linked from some post here that set off the lightbulb in my head. At first, when I read the article, my reaction was that the author was advocating CIO but staying nearby and euphemistically calling it empathy because she was saying some comforting words. It also mentions a baby possibly crying for up to an hour, which sounded pretty awful to me. But, at the same time, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Something rang true to me.
Adults need to cry sometimes, which I know very well. It’s true of me, my friends, and my coaching clients. It’s a great release, and we sometimes end up feeling permanently lighter and better across the board in a way that distraction and fixing the situation don’t. At first, I was skeptical that it would be the same with a baby. My processing usually has a large verbal component.
But I pretty much couldn’t sleep thinking about how there seemed to be something to this idea. The model predicted that if I let Lydia cry in my arms while I comforted her without trying to distract her or fix the situation, she would be happier about pretty much everything and go to sleep much more easily. I woke Will up in the middle of the night (sorry Will!) to ask him what he thought and inform him that I wanted to try changing my approach.
The next morning, I started with the plan to be really present and focus on Lydia more than usual, and pretty much use my intuition to take it from there. She woke up happy, as she usually does, and we just played for a while. Then, as she started to fuss more, I stopped anticipating her cries and trying to dodge them by moving her around. She would usually squawk pretty loudly for up to a few seconds. It felt surprisingly okay to let this happen. In the past, even little cries from her had caused a stress response in me, but, oddly enough, that wasn’t happening any more.
Fully attending to Lydia’s discomfort without judgment, and without trying to resist it, eliminated the suffering on my part. Just like it works when I attend to my own discomfort that way!
Eventually, she started to get tired, but she was doing the thing she does where she’s obviously resisting sleep. Moving her to a horizontal position, even in my arms, was setting her off, as was trying to nurse her to sleep. So I allowed her to cry about these things, usually for a few seconds at a time, while gently rocking her, talking to her, and making eye contact. Sometimes I would go back to changing positions and moving her in the way that I used to, when I sensed that she had had enough for the moment. This went on quite a while, but eventually (maybe forty minutes later?) she drifted off to sleep.
Then, when she woke up, she was fussy about feeding, often turning her head away and squawking (I think I’ve mentioned her doing this before). This time, I decided to try to let her work through whatever was bothering her, and she ended up crying quite a bit. She cried pretty hard for maybe a few minutes a few times. But then she started eating, whereas before she hadn’t seemed to want to! So that was different.
And I also started to get a sense of how much she wanted to be crying to release her emotions. She would cry for a bit, then nurse, then pull off and cry more, then nurse. Sometimes she soothes herself by sucking her fingers or thumb too. She seemed to have a perfectly good idea of when she wanted soothing, so I felt very happy to not impose my own ideas.
There are a bunch more details I could include, but they’re all sort of in the same vein. The one other thing I made a point to do, was an infant form of the strategy I’ve heard described in Playful Parenting and referred to here as playlistening, which is basically physical play where the parent takes the less powerful role.
I noticed that Lydia seemed to really like taking my finger (and my extension my hand) and waving it around, so I made a point of letting her do this. I think this was helping too.
And now it’s like she’s a different baby. Or rather, she’s acting as relaxed as she did when she was a tiny newborn most of the time, but with the skills of a four-month-old. It’s awesome. She still gets upset sometimes, of course, but:
- She doesn’t fuss as much in general.
- She’s gone back to being relaxed about EC.
- She doesn’t seem to hate the carseat anymore.
- She will fall asleep at the drop of a hat when she gets tired, no matter where she is.
- She’s started eating much more often and much during the day, and less at night!
- She sleeps more deeply (won’t rouse much if there’s noise or something).
- Her body is less tense, and she feels floppy again.
- I feel much closer to her and relaxed about parenting.
In retrospect, I see how things people said and a few things I had read were telling me exactly what I figured out. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20, and I’m glad I had this insight now instead of when she was a teenager.
As of last night, I decided to stop tracking her sleep or attempting to influence it any way other than putting her in a comfortable position or place when she’s tired. The reasons I was worried about it before are gone. She now wakes up happy even after short naps, and stays mostly happy until she gets tired again, at which point she goes to sleep. She doesn’t need to be constantly in motion or nursing to remain asleep.
Right now, she’s sleeping strapped to my back as I’m writing this. That wouldn’t have worked a week ago, probably not even if I had been bouncing her a bit and standing as I wrote this.
Sometimes she sleeps 45 minutes, and sometimes she sleeps much longer. (I have updated away from the theory that sleep associations matter when the baby is happy and relaxed.) Sometimes she gets woken up before she’s done sleeping. But I don’t care anymore because she seems happy!
She’s now happy to fall asleep on my lap when I’m sitting around talking to my friends. I can move her upstairs when I go to bed and she won’t wake up much.
The nighttime shift I mentioned was pretty dramatic. I think she’s feeding twice a night now, instead of what felt like constantly. I am perfectly happy with that, since I barely wake up for feeds anyway. Sometimes she’ll pull off the breast before she’s fully asleep and drift off on her own, which I had been trying to gently encourage earlier. Sometimes not, in which case I’ll usually remove my breast once she’s asleep.
In short, now she’s acting the way I thought babies were supposed to! The way she was before! She sleeps when she’s tired, wakes up when she’s done sleeping or when something wakes her up.
I’m much less inclined to just let her sleep on my body now, since I can actually get work done without waking her up. I figure the extra contact is probably good for her, all else equal, and I love that she’s once again more portable.
For now, it seems like she’s falling asleep for the night around 9, and waking up around 8:30, but that’s not enough of a pattern for me to be at all confident that it’ll be that way next week. That’s also fine with me!
For now, I’m checking baby sleep off my list of things to worry about.
Now, Lydia eats and eats and eats all day, just as she did when she was a tiny newborn. She seems to be interested in comfort eating again, but not particularly reliant on it. She’s still fine hanging out with Will for a while and not feeding.
As I’ve said a few times now, she only eats about twice at night!
I suspect her total number of calories is similar, since I figure she was probably doing what she needed to get them the whole time, but I definitely prefer this pattern.
She’s still clearly working through some sort of feeding-related trauma (that I’m sure I unwittingly inflicted on her… naturally I have my theories about this). When I leave her near my breast she’ll feed some, pull off, maybe fuss, feed some more, wave my finger around a bunch, feed some more, cry a lot for maybe ten seconds, feed more, repeat.
I’m happy to let her do this.
Lydia has almost entirely stopped resisting going to the potty. I did take her once while she seemed sort of awake but wanted to go back to sleep. She didn’t like that, so I won’t try it again. This is good news!
Not sure I’m excellent at reading her signs though, so I’m going to refocus there, now that I have some extra parenting energy. Sometimes I know her fussing means potty, and she still wants to go right after she wakes up, so that’s a pretty big percent right there. But she simultaneously seems to be able to hold it for longer and be inclined to go about five minutes after she just peed a lot.
Actually, I think I’m reading her signs just fine, but dismissing them because “she just went”. I’ll stop doing that.
She’s more clear about poop. Oh, and this morning she totally limited my cue! I said “mm mm”, and she said it right back to me, just about the same way I said it to her. I’ve thought she was doing this a few times, but this was much clearer.
Finally, we started using the mini-potty this week. She totally understands what it’s for, and she seems basically indifferent about using it or the sink. I’ve moved the potty into the bedroom, so I can take her when I don’t feel like getting up. I almost always then end up going to the bathroom anyway to dump it out right away, so it’s not clear that it’s actually much easier, but I like having the option. It’ll be even more convenient when she can sit on her own without me holding her up.
It’s harder for me to see exactly what is coming on when, and therefore micromanage her elimination situation, which is probably a good thing. I’ll just need to get better at learning when she’s done.
Not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but I’ve been using baby signs with her around pottying. I take her hand and sign “potty” before we go, and I sign “all done” when she seems done. I don’t expect her to do this herself for a long time, but I figure it can’t hurt.
I think she’s peeing less at night now than she was, but not confident it’s actually a pattern. She still pees a bunch in the early morning before she’s quite ready to get up.
Now that she’s more chill, and doesn’t need to be in motion all the time, I’m even more inclined to wear her around a bunch. She still requires some attention on my back when she’s awake, but not much. And almost none when she’s asleep now.
The back carry (so far we use the Rucksack Carry) has gotten pretty natural these days, and I feel quite confident throwing her up there. It’s a lot faster than using the Front Wrap Cross Carry, and I can do more with her on my back than my front.
When we’re out walking around with diaper bag, I still tend to have her on my front, since I wear the bag on my back. But if we’re just taking a walk, I skip the bag and put her on my back.
I want another woven wrap that’s shorter, since the one I have now has a ton of extra fabric for the carry we’re mostly using. Not sure it’s really reasonable to get one, but I might anyway.
I don’t think I’ve noticed any totally new skills this week, more just her being somewhat better at everything, especially grabbing. She can pick up Sophie the giraffe and quite intentionally put different parts of her in her mouth to suck on.
Once again, she’s happier now!
I’m cautiously optimistic that she’ll be happier going out in the evening and also having babysitters, but we haven’t tried either of those things yet, so it’s hard to know.
She’s making much more clear laughing-type noises these days with a big grin on her face. I think I’ll officially say that she laughs. She’s also gone back to cooing more than grunting or squealing, which I definitely prefer. Her coos sound more adult now, in a way that it’s hard to put my finger on. More different consonants? Longer strings, with more varied inflection too I think.
She definitely likes to greet people who come over and coo at them a bunch, and I am more confident in my prediction that she will not be shy.
I ended up getting the cold that Will had for real this week, unfortunately. I also had some late nights. Even so, I feel better rested than I have in a while, and I’ve felt okay on sleep for a while now. I did take some naps this week to make up on sleep when I missed it, but I think I feel better in a way that isn’t just about hours of sleep.
I’m more relaxed about parenting, more confident that I know what to do with Lydia, and clearer on what she needs me to do for her.
I still haven’t been working on the (non-parenting) goals I set much. It’s understandable, since I’ve had other stuff on my mind and then been sick, but I want to change it. Mostly I want to be writing more, but there are some other things too. I do seem to be happier when I socialize regularly, which I’ve actually been doing a good job of this past week, despite not going out much.